When we both started in on this crazy idea of starting a hobby farm, I was designated as the researcher. I read everything I possibly could… books, blogs, Facebook groups – mostly on chickens mind you, but none of it prepared me for what I have now figured is the secret language of Canadian farmers.
I suppose that I should have suspected that this unique group would have it’s own independent language, just like any other subculture, but there are no books on the subject as far as I’ve found. The hysterical part is the Canadian politeness coupled with the farming is what makes it comical – as I can’t imagine any other group of farmers being this way. Let me explain.
I was at a poultry swap, and chatting with another gal when I let it slip that we had baby chicks in the house – yes, that’s right, those adorable cute fluffy chicks that I love sitting and watching with a glass of wine. This farmer looked at me, jaw open in utter disbelief, followed by a “In your HOUSE?”. She quickly regained her composer as she followed up quickly with a “Aren’t they, um, a bit, dusty?”. After raising up baby chicks in the house, I can tell you exactly what “a bit dusty” translates to: chicks create a dust from the shedding of that oh-so-cute fluff… and that stuff goes everywhere! It turns into fine dust that coats everything… Which was fine, as we were undergoing a kitchen renovation at the same time… so the walls missing in our kitchen and a little more chick dust mixed in with the drywall dust wasn’t even noticeable – or at least not in the kitchen. However the moving boxes not yet unpacked were coated in chick dust, and in batches of chicks raised since, we have learned that it’s the norm. Chicks are incredibly “dusty”, and the last place you want them is in your house… especially if it’s not under reno!
Then there are ducks. I was chatting with a farmer and when I was telling her about how excited I was about getting ducks, she advised in a wise tone that ducks “can be messy”. I have since learned, that farmers have their own scales for muck, and if anyone tells you that something is “messy”, you should probably take their advice and run in the other direction. Ducks, unlike chickens, like to clean their beaks as they eat. It’s so that no food bits get stuck in their nostrils in their beak, and they seem to enjoy splashing their water everywhere. They also suck back a whole lot of water… and what goes in must come out. So needless to say, all that water going in, comes out as fantastic liquid fertilizer. And lots of it. LOTS. Which you are going to have to do something with for the health of your animals, as even with free-ranging them during the day is great… but that nightly liquid poop builds up quickly, and becomes a disgusting slippery mess. Yes, ducks are “messy” – a complete understatement – but then you get ducks, fall in love with them and then your stuck.
Of course, not everything in the secret language is polite understatement. Some of it is straight up code. There is this fantastic cheap cat food that we get at the feed store. Fantastic, as in we tried our cats on all sorts of fancier and more expensive cat food, yet they seem to prefer this brand. The Chef happened to be dropping into another feed store, and was asking if they had any of this stuff on hand, and was busy describing the bag as he couldn’t remember the name of it. He was interrupted by the store clerk, “Oh, you mean Barn Cat.”. The Chef was sure it wasn’t called “Barn Cat”, but the clerk further explained “It’s not actually called that, but that’s what we call it – and everyone else. Next time you’re in, just ask for a bag of ‘Barn Cat’. Everyone will know what you’re talking about.”. Low and behold, he was right. There are probably thousands of barn cats fed with this stuff.
So between the secret code words, and polite understatements we are getting the hang of this secret language, and are even beginning to speak it ourselves. I was explaining to someone that our chickens can be a bit “particular” when picking a location for their egg laying – to explain 3 full-grown chickens all trying to cram into a favourite nesting box at once. It was ridiculous, especially when we have several other spots right beside that box – but that is the preferred spot, so who am I to argue?
So if your new to farming, listen to what the wise farmers around you are saying… and listen hard. And ask questions… lots of them! The nice thing with Canadian farmers, is that they are great people, happily willing to share advice, but just have their own polite way of doing it… like telling you that your extra roosters are best to go to “Freezer Camp”.
Good luck and happy farming!